Bobcats dominate Eagles in Farmington

Ignacio's D.J. Hendren (8) and John Riepel (4) drop a Navajo Prep ball-carrier for a loss during interstate action Friday, Sept. 16, in Farmington, N.M.
Following a Rylan Maez (10) block, Ignacio's Nate Hendren (6) exploits the hole for a big gain against Navajo Prep Friday, Sept. 16, in Farmington, N.M. Hendren netted over 100 yards on the ground as IHS prevailed 54-18.
Ignacio's Elliott Hendren (65) recovers a fumble lost by Navajo Prep quarterback Xavier Nez (1) during interstate action Friday, Sept. 16, in Farmington, N.M.
Ignacio's Anthony Toledo (1) goes around a block from Kyle Rima (61), en route to one of his two fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns Friday, Sept. 16, in Farmington, N.M., versus Navajo Prep. The Bobcats beat the Eagles 54-18.
Ignacio's Devante Montoya (11) breaks up a pass intended for Navajo Prep's Lane Wilson (24) during interstate play Friday, Sept. 16, in Farmington, N.M. Montoya would intercept two throws in IHS' 54-18 victory.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Aside from a failed onside kick, recovered by the enemy in vulnerable Ignacio territory at the 33-yard line, things couldn’t have started better Friday night, September 16, in Farmington, N.M., for IHS’ Bobcats: 

A false-start penalty on the Navajo Prep offense, then a tackle-for-loss planting Elias Begay four yards behind the line of scrimmage, and a Marcus Maez pass-breakup of quarterback Xavier Nez’s first aerial attempt. 

The hometown Eagles’ third-down play, however, exposed one crack in the visitors’ armor, as Nez lobbed a throw downfield along the NP sideline, over IHS cornerback Zane Pontine, and into long-ball threat Lane Wilson’s arms for an eye-opening, 32-yard touchdown only 52 seconds into the interstate action. 

Responding with an all-run 7-play, 45-yard drive – capped by senior QB John Riepel’s 2-yard carry and subsequent Lincoln deKay 2-point conversion run – the guests regained the lead and even expanded it, before Nez and Wilson linked up again for an 11-yard score and 1:10 still left in the first frame. 

Wilson’s conversion attempt failed, but Ignacio head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia, not wanting the contest to turn into a shootout like last year’s 53-52 affair at IHS Field, knew something had to be done about Prep’s prized 2022 transfer from NMAA District 1-3A rival Newcomb. 

“We knew that they had Number 24,” Garcia said, referring to Wilson by jersey number. “He’s an amazing receiver, so we had to face him. He scored two big ones in the first half and we were like ‘We need to adjust!’ So we had to put our best defensive back on him, and (Devante) responded well to that. Did an outstanding job.” 

“At first we had to get on Zane a little bit; I know he was trying, doing his best, but we had to switch,” said junior Devante Montoya. “And once I was on 24 nothing really happened. Locked him down.” 

The move proved most crucial; Montoya got the second-quarter scoring started by stepping to an underthrown Nez pass and returning the interception 34 yards for six points with 6:55 left. Nate Hendren then carried in the conversion, giving the ’Cats a 22-12 advantage. And Wilson? 

Didn’t catch but one more throw – netting just ten yards – or even record a rushing attempt the rest of the game as Ignacio (2-0, 0-0 CHSAA 1A Southern Peaks) departed with a 54-18 victory. 

“They were a good team … hit pretty hard a little bit,” said Hendren, who racked up an unofficial 104 yards on 11 carries – including a 14-yard TD just four snaps after he recovered the Eagles’ onside try beginning the third quarter. “But I feel like we’re doing pretty good this season; we’re starting out strong and keeping it together.” 

Holding a narrow 22-18 halftime lead after NP’s Dayton Yazzie bulled in for a 2-yard TD – set up by a blocked punt recovered at the Bobcats’ 5 – with 0:55 left in the second stanza, IHS simplified things after intermission. Logging 23 run plays against only five passes, Ignacio proceeded to book three more scores on the ground while torturously grinding down the clock. 

After Hendren’s score, brother D.J. Hendren smothered teammate Wade Dunbar’s onside kick at the Navajo Prep 49 with 10:52 left in the third. Five snaps and exactly two minutes later, the Bobcats had increased their lead to 36-18 via a 29-yard Riepel-to-Montoya connection, plus Nate Hendren 2-point tote. 

Maez then somehow covered Dunbar’s next squibber at the IHS 49, but though the resulting drive died on downs after eight plays, the Eagles (0-4, 0-0 Dist. 1-3A) only regressed after starting at their own 19. Four consecutive penalties, before the ball was even snapped to backup QB A.J. John, pushed the ball back to the 2, and on first-and-27, Yazzie had no choice but fall upon a botched center-quarterback exchange and concede the ’Cats a safety with 4:57 left. 

Riepel then returned the Prep free kick 20 yards to the NP 40, and 4:08 later senior Anthony Toledo crashed into the end zone from 16 yards out. He then added a conversion run, expanding IHS’ lead to 46-18 with 44 ticks left in the third. 

Back-to-back quarterback sacks of John by D.J. Hendren and Charlie Pargin quickly regained Ignacio the football, setting the ’Cats up at the Eagles’ 23 with 10:58 remaining in the rout. Toledo promptly took a first-down handoff the required distance, and deKay then carried in the bonus two-pointer. 

With IHS leading by 36 points, Montoya proceeded to off-track Navajo Prep’s next drive with a first-down PBU, and – after one last non-scoring Ignacio series – ultimately secured the final outcome by intercepting John’s end-zone heave. 

“I thought I was going to be out today,” Montoya admitted. “I have a strained TFL right now, so I’m just lucky to be able to play. But … it’s going to be way harder next week; we’ve got to get into our work in practice, go to morning workouts and get prepared. There’s no days off.” 

Riepel finished with, unofficially, just 43 yards on 6-of-14 passing, but did gain 84 yards on 11 carries, with two resulting in touchdowns (the second, a 5-yard effort with 6:27 to go in the first quarter, came three plays and only 21 ticks after Elliott Hendren recovered a Nez fumble at the NP 40). deKay finished with 45 yards on nine tries, and Toledo 52 on five. 

Montoya caught all six of Riepel’s completions for the aforementioned 43 yards. 

In defeat, Nez went 5-of-12 passing for 81 yards, with Wilson totaling four catches for 72. Nez was also the Eagles’ top rusher, gaining 53 yards on three carries – including a 39-yarder midway through the second quarter which ended up being the longest pick-up by either crew. Yazzie managed to net 17 on ten carries, Wilson 16 on two and John minus-20 on four. 

“The first half was very lethargic, you know? Our warmup was very lethargic, so we played … lethargic,” said Garcia. “We were missing lots of blocks … yet we did enough to stay with (Prep). I didn’t want them to have any momentum, we adjusted at halftime and … guess what? We picked it up. And the blocks? The holes became quite large; our linemen did a fantastic job.” 

“Nate, he’s been coming to the weight room every day – he even came this morning!” Garcia noted, recognizing Hendren’s first varsity triple-digit ground game. “He understands now what he needs to do in the backfield … for a running back, because if you don’t stay strong you don’t survive long.” 

“Honestly, I love my mama,” quipped a grinning Hendren. “And I just want to go out and play my best game. Don’t want to overthink it, don’t want to go out there nervous; I just go out and play the game. Now we need to keep pushing forward.” 

Ignacio will next head west to face Montezuma-Cortez, off to a solid 3-1 (0-0 2A Southwestern) start – the Panthers went 3-6 (1-3) overall last fall – following a 49-20 win on the 16th at Hotchkiss-based 1A North Fork (1-2). Guided by boss Ivan Mack, M-CHS’ point totals have increased each game this season, from 17 to 26 (in a non-conference loss at 2A Rifle) to 40 to 49. 

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